I hate to admit it, but I generally put as much effort into reviewing any given disc as the studio did putting it together. Hours of supplements and a great transfer? I'm good for 2,000 words and a handful of carefully-selected screen captures. Slap an existing bare-bones disc in a fancy case to trick unsuspecting fans waiting for an upgrade? 950 words and no pretty pictures. So while this pointless re-release of The Usual Suspects barely warrants three paragraphs, I'll be the bigger man and give it a few extra.
But only because Digibooks look cool.
At its core, The Usual Suspects (1995) is a complex, multi-layered film with a genuinely deceptive ending. Our story revolves around Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), who's interrogated by U.S. Customs Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) about a $91M drug heist the night before. Kint's story is quite a tale: his associates (including Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Pollak) were involved in a firefight, and a mysterious man named Keyser Söze was also part of the equation. Söze's reputation carries most of the film's intrigue: he's feared but virtually never seen, and the mere mention of his name is enough to make most criminals tremble in fear. To put it simply, The Usual Suspects tells Kint's story in unraveling flashbacks, and our job is to figure out how much of it is true.
Akira Kurosawa once said that "a good movie should be entertaining and easy to understand"...and more often than not, The Usual Suspects is more "entertaining" than "easy to understand". I'm not saying this from the perspective of a lazy or easily-distracted viewer; I'm simply stating that it tries a little too hard to blindside us with small details, if for no other reason than to throw us off course. On one hand, The Usual Suspects earns the weight that its ending carries (and to its credit, manages to hold up to repeat viewings), yet it can leave a sour taste in the mouths of those who don't like blatant manipulation. We're held at arm's length for the duration of the film, much like Kujan, and the film's final twist is dangled right in front of us. From a purely entertaining standpoint, this tactic works just fine. But it doesn't make The Usual Suspects one of the decade's best films, even though it's a solid debut effort from director Bryan Singer and full of great performances.
Regardless of your level of fandom, there's no doubt that The Usual Suspects hasn't received a proper high-def release to date (including this one). The original 2007 Blu-Ray featured a passable A/V presentation, but all of the bonus features from the excellent 2002 Special Edition DVD were left behind. Four years later, and MGM has decided to re-release The Usual Suspects in a fancy new Digibook case...but for some reason, the exact same Blu-Ray is tucked inside. Out of morbid curiosity, let's take a closer look:
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer is the same (slightly) dated MPEG-2, single-layered offering that we got from the previous Blu-Ray release. It's not a terrible effort, mind you: image detail and the film's natural color palette are decent, though some scenes tend to lean towards the soft side. Digital imperfections occasionally pop up, including mild amounts of edge enhancement and noise, but they aren't overly distracting. The bottom line is that most folks only re-buy movies for an improved visual presentation, and The Usual Suspects doesn't get one here.
Of course, the DTS-HD Master Audio track (also available in French or Spanish 2.0 dubs) is exactly the same as well, but it's not like The Usual Suspects would really benefit from a complete audio overhaul. This talky film generally stays put in the front and center channels, though occasional music cues and periods of action open up the soundstate nicely. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are offered during the main feature.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Despite not holding a lot of content, the menu navigation is cumbersome; in fact, I could probably set up the DVD faster than this disc. The menu also contains spoilers (!), so watch out. This 106-minute movie gets roughly two dozen chapter breaks, loading time is relatively fast and the disc is apparently locked for Region "A" players only. As mentioned earlier, the packaging itself is the only exclusive "extra" on this release: it's housed inside a thin, durable Digibook that includes a few essays, production stills, cast biographies and quotes. It's an attractive and practical design...but is it worth shelling out $35 for? Not in the least.
As mentioned earlier, the only bonus material here is a collection of Trailers; one for The Usual Suspects and five for seemingly random MGM releases, presented in a mixture of resolutions. With no new extras created for this HD double-dip (heck, not even any from the DVD Special Edition released back in 2002), MGM gives us virtually no reason to shell out for this movie again.
An entertaining but mildly overrated movie arrives for the second time on Blu-Ray...and the only difference is a fancy new packaging job. Why haven't more studios learned how to treat fans with more respect than this? Assuming you don't have this on Blu-Ray already, Skip It and get the cheaper original release instead. $35 is too much for a nice looking case.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.